The Parkland, Fla., high school massacre of 17 people reignited the call to “do something” on gun violence. Far too many recent mass shooting events have two things in common: guns and violent mental illness. But, “doing something” is easier said than actually done in identifying achievable steps to reduce the recurrent carnage.
In 2016, President Obama issued an Executive Order requiring the Social Security Administration to forward to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) the names of disability recipients who need a third party to help them manage their benefits because of a mental impairment. This overly-broad “background check” covered 75,000 people and was opposed by the American Civil Liberties Union, disability rights organizations, and the National Rifle Association. In 2017, both the House and Senate passed legislation signed by President Trump to revoke that Obama-era regulation.
The existing NICS has been established to be in major need of improvement. After a gunman killed 26 people at a church in Sutherland, Texas last November, it was determined the Air Force had failed to submit the shooter’s history of domestic assault and his bad-conduct discharge to the FBI and NICS.
In the aftermath of the church shooting, Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn joined with Connecticut Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy in drafting a “Fix NICS” bill to tighten background checks. The Cornyn-Murphy bill (S.2135) doesn’t expand the categories of people prohibited from purchase of a gun; it’s meant to stop people from buying guns when they were never suppose to be able to in the first place. The bill requires every federal agency to outline how it will ensure that relevant information gets to NICS; penalizes federal agencies and appointees that fail to do so; encourages states to maintain background databases to inform NICS; and, beefs up reporting on domestic violence.
The bill’s bipartisan approach is backed by Cornyn, the second highest-ranking Republican in the Senate, as well as Republican Sens. Orrin Hatch, Tim Scott and Nevada’s Dean Heller. In addition to Murphy, an outspoken advocate of gun control, Democratic Sens. Richard Blumenthal, Dianne Feinstein, and Jeanne Shaheen are also co-sponsors. Significantly, it’s supported by the National Rifle Association, police associations and President Trump.
Completely overlooked in the current debate is how Hollywood contributes to the culture of gun violence. While Ellen DeGeneres and Bette Midler tweet invectives at Congress, they turn a blind eye to Hollywood movies. There can be no doubt Hollywood films, television and video games contribute to an overall culture of violence that affects our society in negative ways. Guns show up routinely in the films kids watch. A study has found more gun violence in movies rated PG-13 than in those rated R.
There’s another solution that needs attention: shooting back at the shooters. There’s evidence that it works. Last November in Texas, a rifle instructor with an AR-15, shot a suspect. In 2015, a security officer shot and killed two gunmen about to carry out an ISIS-inspired attack in Garland, Texas.
At a cost estimate of $10.7 billion, two security guards could be assigned to every public education institution in the country. While no small amount, it would be a worthy investment. Trained security guards wouldn’t only respond to a shooting incident, but also identify potential perpetrators to prevent atrocities and be available to deal with other campus incidents of violence.
Jim Hartman is a Genoa resident.